Retire / rehire contract awarded to Aurora school head Bennett

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published:

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR

Aurora -- Schools Superintendent Russ Bennett will continue to head the district for the next 40 months under a retire / rehire agreement approved Feb. 25 by the Board of Education.

Bennett has been the district's superintendent for the past eight years and recently announced his desire to retire after 30 years of service as a teacher, coach and administrator. His new contract reduces his salary from $132,000 to $125,000 per year.

The Board actually approved two contracts. One covers a bridge term from March to July 31, 2013, and the other runs from Aug. 1, 2013 to July 31, 2016, because superintendent contracts must run from Aug. 1 to July 31 by law.

"With the rehiring of Mr. Bennett, we have kept a proven leader who is capable of continuing our educational excellence," said School Board President Gerald Kohanski. "Additionally, we were able to negotiate a contract that will save the district about $125,000 [salary and benefits] over the next 40 months. His contract has no incentives and requires him to pay medical and retirement benefits that typically are paid by the district.

"Throughout the process of rehiring Mr. Bennett, we've been overwhelmed by the positive comments from our community. We're certainly pleased to continue to have Mr. Bennett as our district superintendent."

"I've been blessed to be a part of this school system since I was in second grade," said Bennett.

"I've loved being a teacher, coach and administrator for the past 30 years, and I'm extremely grateful to the Board for having the confidence in me to lead the district for the next 40 months.

"I'm excited to be given the opportunity to continue carrying out the many changes we're implementing in the district, and to meet the new challenges all school districts are experiencing."

Kohanski previously said the retire/rehire scenario is "the new reality for school boards dealing with superintendent vacancies because of recent changes to the STRS [State Teachers Retirement System] pension system enacted by the state legislature."

Bennett received support from a majority of local residents who spoke at a School Board public hearing on Feb. 6, but two people did not favor the rehiring, opposing what some people call "double dipping" -- receiving pension benefits and a salary at the same time.

"I don't care if other schools do it," said resident Sharon Berringer. "We should give the job opportunity to other people. If he chooses to retire, that means he should retire."

But resident Pam Roach's comment was typical of most made at the public hearing. "He is doing an unbelievable job," she said. "We have a lot to be proud of because of him."

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189

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